Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Crappiest Criminal - Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, on a particularly frigid night in New York City, I was on my way home to Queens.

I was going to have to change trains at some point in order to get home. I could have done it at 4th, 34th, or 42nd street. However my train philosophy, and really my general travel philosophy is “get as far as you can on the vessel you are on before you change.”

And generally it works out pretty well for me. But for whatever over thought reason, I got off the train at 34th to change.

At the risk of sounding insensitive I will point out that when it gets really hot outside, or really cold for that matter, you tend to see more homeless people on the climate controlled trains.

But a subway car is a closed space and it is quite frequent that the homeless individuals who have settled in smell less than ideal. Often if I board a car that smells awful or I am aware of somebody who might smell, I’ll move to the next car.

According to the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority, moving between cars while the train is in motion is illegal. However it is something I have done dozens of times. Many people have. It is something that happens every day in every single car of every train I have ever been on.

Sure it’s illegal, but so is jaywalking, and who gets arrested for jaywalking?

Upon boarding my train, I noticed a pair of homeless individuals, and realizing I had about 30 minutes left before I got home I decided not to risk the smell and moved on to the next car.

As soon as I walked in the next car I saw 7 police officers. My first thought was that I had walked into a murder scene, which made me panic. Then I thought one of the officers was talking to me, which also made me panic.

But he wasn’t talking to me so I just sat down and put my headphones in. Thirty seconds later when we got to the 42nd street stop and the doors opened, one of the officers signaled to me to get off the train.

 Could you come here for a second?

The officer was one of a group of three, all who appeared to be fresh out of the academy. He told me that walking between cars is illegal, and asked me if I knew that.

I told him I did.

He asks for my I.D., which I give to him. We are underground one of the three officers has to go upstairs to call it in to make sure the yuppie with the newsboy hat and duffle coat isn’t actually an arms dealer.

I’m standing on the platform, freezing, because I don’t have my gloves on, because they are inside my coat, which I don’t think I’m allowed to open because they don’t know I’m NOT an arms dealer yet. I go to put my hand in my pocket which the officer asks me not to.

Great, first I get pulled off my train, and now I’m going to get chapped hands.

It takes no less than 10 minutes for the officer who took my license to come back. In that time I stare at the floor. I stare off into the distance, at the other people who are now staring at me because I am standing against a wall with two police officers blocking me from moving in any direction.

Some schmuck keeps looking over and smirking. I want to kick him in the junk. I want to push him onto the track. But then I realize he doesn’t know that I got busted for walking between train cars. For all he knows I COULD be an arms dealer… A very preppy arms dealer.

Finally the third officer comes back. And that’s when the officer who asked me to step off the train, the one who looks about 23, reaches into his pocket and pulls out his pad.

I’m going to have to give you a summons.

Which is a lie. You can call it whatever you want, you can call it a Bagel Dog. It’s not a summons. It’s a ticket. A ticket for 75 dollars.

It was at this point that I wanted to yell at him.

Are you kidding me? Look at me? Do I look like a rule breaker? How about you do something about the guy I saw on the train last week who was peeing himself while he was on the train? Or the people who lay across 4 seats to sleep? Or how about the people who panhandle on the train, which is illegal by the way, and then walk between cars, which is also illegal as you know, so they can do more illegal panhandling in the next car they illegally entered. Why can’t you arrest them? Or the people who shout at me to repent for my sins while I ride to work? Or the kids who sell candy for their “basketball team?” How about you give ANY of them a summons?

And this is when I realized, I am not meant to be a risk taker. I can’t even lead an exciting enough life to possibly expose myself to the risk.

I’m the kind of guy who would go to jail for an overdue book, or for putting gum underneath a table. I constantly think about what it would be like to be one of those people who just goes where life takes them, who ignores conventions to just do whatever interests them.

But I can’t even do that because the laws of the universe refuse to even allow me to move away from odiferous transients. How can I break the rules if I can’t even break the smell barrier?

It takes the officer forever to write the ticket because he’s obviously never done it before. So it takes the three of them 15 minutes to read their rulebook, consult each other’s intelligence, and fill out a half a sheet of paper.

I want to argue but everything sounds cliché`. And as a writer, I hate cliché`s.

Give me a break, come on, seriously, and all the rest of that sounds so already used up that I can’t bring myself to say any of it. So I just stand there in silence as he writes my ticket, my ticket for what is officially denoted as “unsafe riding.”

Which if you look at my history of police infractions, pretty much every single one can be classified as “unsafe riding.” Which in and of itself is pretty pathetic sounding. Not even “dangerous riding.” Nope, unsafe. And I guess that’s me.

Rich Boehmcke: Not dangerous just... Unsafe.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Crappiest Criminal - Part 1

The first time I really had a run in with the law I was in Arizona. After a slow start to my freshman year at school I was feeling better, healthy, and more like myself again.

After a day doing a service project with my class I realized I needed another pair of flip-flops if I was going to be a full time Arizonian. Having no transportation of my own, my friend was kind enough to let me borrow his badass drop top white jeep.

I had never driven a jeep before and certainly not a convertible. It was quite a thrill especially in the blazing Arizona sun. So feeling good about my life I cranked up the music as I drove around the mall parking lot looking for the store I was headed to.

As I drove the loop of the mall parking lot looking for a parking spot I bobbed my head to the fierce tunes coming out of the stereo. I was completely oblivious to how loud the music was.

At least, until mall security told me to turn it down.

Shot down. Ok whatever no problem. I went into the mall, bought my flip-flops and then hopped in the jeep to head back to campus to get ready for the party that night.

Again the music went up, my foot hit the pedal and as I was again bobbing my head to the beat, feeling good, driving the mall loop towards the exit when I passed a cop headed in the other direction.

It wasn't until that moment that I paid attention to my speed. I quickly covered the break and locked my eyes on the rearview mirror as I watched the cop pass, slow down, make a u-turn and hit the siren.


He quickly caught up to me easily since at this point I was driving about 5 miles per hour.

I pulled over into a parking spot and started sweating and shaking uncontrollably.

The officer walked up to the car asked for my license and registration.

The license of course was in my dorm and as for the, registration I had no idea of its location.

When I tried to explain to the officer that I thought you didn’t need to have your license on you (based on some stupid rumor some idiot out of state freshman had told me) the officer disagreed. Him being a police officer and having a gun, he won that debate.

I searched for the registration but couldn't get the glove box open until I realized there was a key on the key chain. I finally got the registration, the officer ran my student I.D. (a ridiculous piece of plastic with a purple sunset on it that proved nothing except the fact that I was a moron from not Arizona).

As the office so kindly explained, there is speeding and there is criminal speeding. Criminal speeding consists of going more than 20 miles over the speed limit.

I was going 22 over.

My charge?

Criminal speeding... In a mall parking lot.

If that doesn't scream I am an insecure teenager I don't know what does. It was simultaneously expensive, frustrating and embarrassing.

My second interaction with the police also happened on a motor vehicle and also happened in Arizona.

I had gotten a job at a bar about 20 minutes away from my apartment. I wasn’t a big fan of the bus so I bought a scooter. It was a little red Vespa lookalike from a brand called TGB, Taiwan Golden Bee. It was a much cheaper competitor to the Vespa, which means “Wasp” in Italian.

It had a small 49 cc engine, which I liked because any engine over 50 CCs meant I needed to get a motorcycle license, which I didn't want to do.

One night I was riding my scooter back from Wendy’s with my helmet on making the turn onto the 2 mile stretch of road back to my apartment when I saw the flashing lights that make your ass clench and heart race all at the same time.

I pulled over and the police officer asked me where my protective eyewear was. This is something that is required by law. I told him it was in the mail, which may or may not have been true.

He told me not having any was illegal and he asked to see me license. So I showed it to him. He looked at it for a second before looking up asking to see my motorcycle license.

I told him I didn't need one because this scooter was only 49 CCs and thereby below the legal limit mandatory for a motorcycle license.

He told me that completely untrue. By law I needed a motorcycle license. Him being a police officer and having a gun, he won that debate.

He told me I wasn’t allowed to drive it home. I could have somebody with a pickup truck come pick me up or I could push it home.

And believe it or not pushing it home seemed to be the less embarrassing of the two options.

So I pushed my scooter home. Two miles. I had been pulled over for not following one rule and was ticketed for completely disregarding another.

One thing had become clear to me at this point; I was done listening to what people told me about the license laws in Arizona.

But it wasn’t until this past weekend that I had the most ridiculous and depressing run ins with the law. This time I would have nobody to blame but myself… and a homeless person.

To be continued…

Monday, January 16, 2012

Everything That's Wrong With Me

My dermatologist doesn’t want to see me anymore.

I don’t know why. I used to love her. She was great to me. I thought we had a nice rapport. But in October I got a letter from her that said she would be closing her office, moving out of state, and not keeping in touch. She left no forwarding address. Her letter said this would all happen on October 14th.

I got the letter on October 15th.

The whole thing was very suspicious. Was she deported to another state? Did she lose her license? Did it turn out she didn’t know what she was doing all along? Was it me? I think it's a bad sign when even your dermatologist doesn't want to see you anymore.

Just, just leave me alone OK? Take your retched skin somewhere else!

Is my naked body really that atrocious? I mean I know it's a bit… reflective, but still. 

Luckily I found a new dermatologist. Which is good because I need a dermatologist on call. Especially in the winter when my epidermis pretty much just quits. 

If I don't moisturize my hands every 2 hours in the winter they crack and shrivel like a pair of sun-dried tomatoes… except not as delicious

So I find myself applying hand lotion regularly, in the morning, at night, several times throughout the day. However it is almost always right before I need to turn a doorknob or open a jar. So I look like a terribly stupid weakling with no grasp (literally) on modern technology.

Hey can you help me with this door?
Why is it stuck?
Oh… no.

At least I knew what to do about my dry useless hands. But then I noticed I had dry skin under my arms, both of them.


A new skin disease I had to worry about.

You see the dermatologist who left me kindly informed me last summer that I had psoriasis on my scalp. Silly me, I thought it was just a normal person problem like dandruff. No, it was something way more annoying.

My dermatologist told me I had two options for managing this awesome new addition to my life. My first option was an odorless steroid mousse that I would need to use twice a day for a week. She said that it would probably work.

Oooh steroids, maybe I'd get some muscles. But then I realized I hadn't worked out since ‘09 so that probably wasn't going to happen.

The other option was to put this incredibly stinky… stuff on my scalp every night for a week and sleep with a shower cap on. She said it would definitely work.

Having a medical professional tell me to sleep with a smelly shower cap on would probably be something that would make my wife laugh at me, something that would bind us together in embarrassment, and something that only my wife could love me for.

But I don't have a wife. Which just makes this another embarrassing addition to my private life. This would be really fun to tell to women.

Hey do you want to come back to my place? By the way I sleep in a shower cap that smells like the devil and I have armpit dandruff… More wine?


So aside from my lame scalp, and my deficient hands, I thought the dry armpit skin might be due to my deodorant. So I switched to a "24 Hour Natural Deodorant.” I now realize that is a phrase that should be banned by law.

When I took off the cap it smelled like lemons and maple syrup. Awesome, I support that.

However shortly after applying it I realized the label should have said "2 Hour Natural Odorant; Guaranteed to make you self loathing before lunch."

Which by the way, I looked up the meaning of the word “odorant” and it said:

An odorous substance; especially: one added to a dangerous odorless substance to warn of its presence.
And that sounds about right.

Hey guys do you smell that? Oh my god it’s Rich, RUN!

I caught a whiff of my own scent halfway through the day and almost punched myself in the face for being so stupid. The “deodorant” didn’t just quit, I think it switched sides. As though the task at hand was just too much for it.

I don’t think I can suppress this… but wait… I can make it worse!

Thank god my company supplies spray deodorant, which I then applied liberally while still wearing my shirt because I didn't want to be the guy standing topless at the company bathroom sink.

But applying spray deodorant with your clothes on is challenging. And it’s difficult to aim. So I’m pulling my shirt away from my body with the same arm that I’m trying to elevate so I can point this industrial can of aerosol stink remover at my dilapidated armpit. Naturally people walked in.

Hey Rich what are you doing?
Oh just… fumigating my shirt.

By the time I could finally get to my new dermatologist to tell him about my scalp, and hands and armpits I was exhausted. I fully expected my skin to just fall off one day like a snake’s.

I told my dermatologist about all of my issues, he gave me suggestions and solutions for all of it. Then I told him about my armpits.

He laughed and said

Ahhh, you’re getting old.

That’s not really the answer I was hoping for.

He told me that this happens at my age (28 is not that old people) and it’s due to the winter when it’s very dry and people take very hot showers. So he advised I take showers that were not as hot and moisturize under my arms.

Yea derm, twice last week I forgot to zip up my fly before I left my apartment but I'm definitely going to remember to put some lanolin in my armpit twice a day.


Maybe I should just see if there's some armpit mousse.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Gift of Sound

My parents had gotten a new TV before Thanksgiving. Paired with their DIRECTV and Bose sound system this should have been an exciting time in their lives. However at some point the sound quality deteriorated severely. My parents found themselves cranking the volume up all the way just to be able to barely hear it.

Though it was extremely frustrating it was a reality they had come to accept. And that was sad because my parents don’t hear as well as they used to. After working all of their lives they finally retired and have a beautiful huge television with great sound but now… no sound.

However when my sister visited for Thanksgiving we were not satisfied. We saw not only the opportunity to correct the issue, but also an idea for a great holiday gift.

Now I know as much as about electronics as I do about cars. Which is to say I know nothing about electronics. So I went online and started doing research. The research I did pointed to some inexpensive speakers that would work with what my parents had.

Jump to Christmas Eve when my electronically clueless sister and electronically clueless self walked into a big box electronic store to find what we were looking for. After two minutes of talking to the guy there I learned two things.

  1. 1. I was an idiot.
  2. 2. We needed to by them a stereo tuner and not just speakers.

As these things go the guy said he had ONE stereo tuner in the back that happened to be on sale.

Isn’t that always the case? There’s always just one, and it’s in the back. Like the sales person has to get on a camel and trek 5 miles through the Mohave to get to the back of the store.

It’s never: Yes I have one left and… it’s right here!

But my sister and I are know nothing and it is a really good deal, so we purchased it. The nice guy at the store gives us his card and tells us that when my parents need to come back and purchase the speakers later on, to come back and see him.

We readily comply.

Christmas morning comes and we give the stereo tuner to my parents and they open it up excitedly.

This will make things better!

We say.

You will be able to hear the TV now!

We honestly believe.

Christmas passes, as does the following day. And sure enough it is soon time to install the stereo tuner. So I sit down one morning and begin the process. It starts off easy enough.

I open the box. I take out all of the items. I move the box to the side.

And that’s when things started to go downhill.

The first problem I encountered was the fact that the cords that connect the TV, to the DIRECTV box to the DVD player to the BOSE speakers are all only long enough to just barely make the connections without any slack.

So in order to actually move or unplug anything, I have to get a flashlight and contort my gangly body into the entertainment center. One might think 6 months of yoga would have helped with this, but no, not at all.

Within no time, the normally organized living room looked like this.

Also keep in mind while everything is connected at this point, nothing is actually working. The TV is on but there is no sound, the tuner turns on but it’s not doing anything, and the red light on the Bose speakers just glares at me like the Eye of Sauron.

So that’s when I give up on the instruction booklet, which has a lot of pictures like this:

A picture like that means nothing to me. It could have been the back of a toaster over and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

And I want to be clear I tried to follow the instructions, I really did. But after I followed the instructions and didn’t get it to work the first time, I knew I was screwed. So I just started plugging every cord into every hole in every machine in the living room. If you had told me to run the microwave while putting my tongue in the DVD player I would have tried it.

Nothing worked.

So I took to the Internet.

Bad idea.

I don’t know how to fix what isn’t working because I don’t even know what’s wrong. So I’m googling things like…

How come this isn’t working when I plug the red thing into the red hole?

Or I’ll just write the name of every product I am trying to connect and put a question mark at the end. And believe it or not that’s when I started to find answers.

Meanwhile, at this point it has now been two days since I took apart the living room. The discussions between my parents and I have elevated in intensity as none of us knows what’s wrong.

My dad wants it to work. My mom wants us to just return the thing. And I can't bare to face the guy at the store business card I got, too embarrassed to admit that I’m a technical moron and maybe I should have just bought my dad a book.

After reading multiple sites and comment boards I finally come across a picture of the Bose system my parents have with a remote control. I ask my parents if they have a remote control.


I don’t think so.

Let me check.

At this point I’m spiraling down a hole of self-doubt and regret as I anticipate the conversations I will have with my friends after I return home. 

Hey rich what did you get your parents for Christmas? 
Oh three small fights, an old remote control scavenger hunt and hypertension.

Twenty minutes later we have found a lost remote control with dead batteries. After we change the batteries I press the power button the little red light suddenly turns green. Their original speakers work! The sound is perfect!

They didn’t need a stereo tuner, or new speakers, or a trip to best buy… all they needed was to turn their speakers on.

It wasn't their fault, heck, none of us knew what was going on. But maybe buying them new things isn't the way to go. Maybe next year I will just find something around that house that doesn’t work and fix it.

Or at least... turn it on. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Year of Incredible Focus

There is a box of mismatched Legos sitting on the second shelf of the entertainment center in my apartment, they are the ashes of my childhood, pieces of my life leftover, significant but otherwise unused.

When I first moved into my apartment, while I waited for my furniture to be delivered I came across them. As I wiled away the hours and hours waiting for the furniture delivery guy to never show up I played with those Legos, making vehicles and forts, building the same way I did when I was a child.

When it came time to put them somewhere I couldn't bring myself to throw them out so I just put them in a sealed box on my shelf. Once in a while I peek in there to take a look at them, check up on them I guess. But otherwise there they sit, undisturbed.

One of the first blogs I wrote, the fourth one to be exact, was about how I had inherited all of my parents dishes, bowls, cutlery and glassware. As a single man living by myself it was far too much for one person. Nearly 4 years later it is still too much for one person. I have more glasses than I have friends. That might concern me if I didn't have enough glasses to break one every single day for the next 2 months and still have enough for a house party.

When I first moved in to my apartment the goal was stuff. Get stuff. Acquire stuff. Display stuff. And that I succeeded at. My apartment quickly went from barren to overstuffed. It's embarrassing to note that it was two months after my apartment was robbed before I realized my sunglasses had been one of the things stolen.

And speaking of, it is just over a year since my apartment was robbed. Looking back now it is very easy for me to say how lucky I was. I was not home, I was not harmed, I lost many material possessions but nothing that I couldn't ultimately get over. Between the insurance payments and an incredibly superfluous outpouring of generosity from my coworkers, I was able to continue leading my life, continue with my trip to Fiji and move on.

The toll the robbery took on my psyche was much greater. I bought a security gate for my window. I used to laugh when somebody would come into my apartment and immediately lock the door behind them. Now I do that every time. The unique creaks and noises of my apartment that used to endear the building to me now reminded me of the robbery. Every time the trees outside brushed against the fire escape, or the people in the apartments next to mine made the floor creak, my heart momentarily stops. I realize I will never feel as safe as I did before my apartment was robbed.

After the robbery I felt angry at myself for being so connected to my material possessions. Did I really need so many watches? Did I really just say I "loved" that watch? How did I let myself get so... materialistic?

I know it wasn't intentional. When I left college with no real idea of what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be, I concentrated on the only truly tangible goal I had, having my own apartment.

So the two years I spent working two jobs to get my place were spent daydreaming of the kinds of things I would fill it with; the art, the books, the dishes. The sheer amount of time I spent thinking about dishware at 23 should have let me know it was time to find some new goals... or at least a hobby.

It was an easy, specific, tangible goal. Get enough stuff to fill my apartment and then I would feel whole.

Having had a year to think about the events of that night, the things I lost, and how it all affected me I realize that the sheer idea of having my personal space violated by a stranger has done far worse things to me than losing any of that stuff. And while I'm sure the robbery's effects on me will never entirely go away (though I can hope) I do have control over something else: my attachment to my stuff.

I am not about to make a claim that I am going to give up all of my stuff and live a monastic life. I love having nice things. But I can limit their importance in my life.

On the verge of a brand new year, and a year in which I will be closer to 30 than ever before, and following a year that rocked me in so many ways I could never have expected, I am suddenly aware of how scattered my lifestyle has been.

I have spent my days chasing new projects, new distractions, new experiences, things that are better, more unique or exciting, all without any real thought with how they were contributing to my overall story. As a writer I am also aware of how exhausting it can be trying to tell 9 different stories at the same time. And I have been focused too heavily on cramming my life full of stories, events, and experiences, that I have paid little attention to the story I was actually trying to tell.

I do know that I don't want my story to be the one of the guy who acquired too many things and had a bunch of experiences but never really ended up where he wanted to be. Now I know it's impossible to know exactly where you will end up when you begin, writing has taught me that too. And I'm not trying to do that either.

I simply seek to reduce my life down to more elemental things. Fewer, quality pieces. More significant relevant interactions with friends. And more focus when it comes to the things I want to do. While it was fun to write a huge play that I never produced, then write 6 episodes of a web series that got put on hold, and then write and shoot a short film that ended up in limbo, and then write and direct a play which actually went up, I always felt like I was at the whim of my life experiences and my own boredom. And the combination of the two was exhausting.

So in the next year I seek to do the following:
  • To clean out my apartment of those things that are not extremely necessary to who I am and the life I want to lead.
  • To limit the amount of things I do merely to distract myself, even if that means subjecting myself to sitting still and thinking about my life... my least favorite thing.
  • To focus my attention on the projects that I am in love with. To stop trying to do everything, all the time, in the fear that not doing means I am wasting away.
And those Legos on my shelf? Well, I will package them up nicely and donate them. Maybe the ashes of my childhood will become the seeds of somebody else's.